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Legal Battle Over Miami Artist’s Paintings Continue Nine Years After His Death


When a Florida court establishes a guardianship for a living ward’s property, the guardian continues to act in that role even after the ward’s death. The guardian must first apply for a formal discharge from the guardianship court before any remaining property can be transferred to the ward’s probate estate. The guardian is also permitted to retain sufficient funds or assets to pay any of the final costs of administering the guardianship itself.

Court: Guardian Allowed to Pay Debts with Artwork

These rules can create a tension between a guardian and the potential beneficiaries of a ward’s estate. A recent decision from the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, Lovest v. Mangiero, offers a case in point. This decision is just the latest in a long-running series of court battles over the work of Purvis Young, a Miami artist who passed away in 2010. According to an obituary of Young in the New York Times, he was a “a self-taught painter who emerged from prison as a young man” and was credited with “transform[ing] a forgotten Miami neighborhood into a destination for contemporary art aficionados.”

In 2007, a Florida court appointed two guardians to oversee Young’s personal health and business property, respectively. The property guardian was tasked with overseeing Young’s substantial collection of artwork. After Young died in 2010, the guardianship court retained jurisdiction and named the guardian as personal representative of the estate.

Before terminating the guardianship, the guardian asked the court for permission to use Young’s artwork to pay off the estate’s creditors. The court granted the request, but said the creditors should receive art worth 200 percent of their claims to “offset appraisal and broker costs.” Several months later, one of the beneficiaries of Young’s will filed an objection to this order. This prompted the court to hold a new hearing in February 2012.

By 2017, the guardianship was still active. In fact, the guardian filed a second petition to pay creditors directly using artwork. The guardian told the judge that he was unable to repay the creditors in cash “because there was no marketplace for the art” itself. A year later, the guardian managed to file seven years worth of account reports for the guardianship. The beneficiary noted above objected to the approval of this account as well as the two prior orders regarding the use of art to repay creditors. The judge overruled these objections, prompting the beneficiary to appeal.

On appeal, the beneficiary argued the guardianship court violated her due process rights. The appeals court disagreed. It noted the guardianship court had the authority to authorize the use of assets like artwork to pay Young’s debts. And while the lower court “should have required” the guardian to file reports each year, its failure to do so meant the guardian did not technically break the law.

Speak with a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer Today

Even under the best of circumstances–which the Young case clearly was not–a guardianship can complicate the timely administration of a person’s estate. That is why you should always work with a qualified Fort Myers guardianship attorney who can advise you on the best ways to avoid the need for a guardianship in the first place. Contact the Kuhn Law Firm, P.A., at 239-333-4529 today to schedule a free confidential consultation with a member of our estate planning team.


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